Medical practices and specialty groups don’t typically have dedicated marketing teams to help grow their business. So email marketing is a good option — it’s a relatively modest investment of time and money to help spread the word about your services and to stay in touch with your current patients.
For the large healthcare systems we work with, email is one part of a fully integrated marketing system; for nonprofit community-based providers and smaller practice groups, it’s often the primary marketing channel. As we’ve worked in the healthcare field, we’ve developed a number of smart strategies for email marketing.
Email marketing doesn’t mean someone in your office is sending out a bunch of individual messages to patients — tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact make the task much easier. These platforms allow you to manage mailing lists, segment your audience for different messages, create branded templates, send messages automatically, test different subject lines, and more. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll find lots of help and tutorials from both providers.
We’re all bombarded by emails, and our email programs are smart about recognizing spam messages. To avoid having your messages end up in recipients’ trash bin, be sure that the patients and prospects on your mailing list have actually signed up to hear from you. Avoid words that spam filters look out for, such as “free” and “promise,” in your subject lines. And make sure your messaging is compliant with HIPAA guidelines on communication with patients, email address verification, and privacy. As part of your overall patient experience strategy, create a preference center where patients can choose the type of content they want to receive from you and how often.
You already maintain a list of existing patients — but how do you generate a list of prospects? You can certainly buy lists from third parties, but we don’t recommend doing so: They’re only as good as the data they’re based on and are often outdated. Instead, the way to build your own list is to use your website and social media posting to invite people to engage and sign up. Be sure your practice’s website has an email sign-up option on every page. If you regularly post blog content, include a link for people to learn more about the topic by signing up for your emails. Include a forwarding/sharing button or link in all of your email messages, so recipients can pass them along to others. Use your email platform to segment your lists so you can target messages to each group; it can also help you manage your list so your contacts are up to date.
Your practice management software might include options to send automated messages to patients to confirm or remind them of upcoming visits or procedures. In addition, you can use an email platform to send them messages about what they can expect during the visit, or steps they need to take to prepare for a procedure.
Patient education is a great topic for email marketing: You can create monthly newsletters related to your specialty with advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle or managing a specific condition. If you’re welcoming a new doctor or adding a line of care, be sure to let your audience know with an email update. Think about the seasonal trends in your practice — for example, you might send reminders about flu shots in the fall, or sports physicals for kids over the summer. Following a visit, you could send each patient a request for feedback to improve your patient experience.
Think, too, about the action you want the recipient to take: simply visit your website to learn more about what you can do for them? Make an appointment? Leave a testimonial? Craft the message with a clear call to action and a link that takes them directly to the right destination on your website.
Email marketing tools make it easy for novices to create branded templates that include your logo, font choices, colors, even images. Messages should look and sound like they come from your practice. Because people have signed up to hear from you, you can take a personal, conversational tone with content.
The beauty of email is that you can do a lot of testing to figure out what messages and formats generate the most response; otherwise you’re stuck in your own marketing routines. Again, MailChip or Constant Contact make analysis and testing easy. Look at your open rates: Benchmarks for the healthcare industry suggest that open rates for email marketing ideally fall around 23%. Open rates will tell you if your subject lines need to be more appealing (more often than not that’s the biggest problem with email marketing). Once a recipient opens your message, do they click through to read more on your website? Do they sign up for an appointment? Look at the messages that perform well and compare them to those with lower engagement to pinpoint what’s working and not, then apply that learning to upcoming campaigns. You can also test different templates to gauge whether a layout or choice of images make a difference in engagement.
Ready to integrate email marketing into your practice or organization? Let’s talk about how we can make that easy for you.
Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes messaging for health and wellness organizations. Through insightful branding, engaging design and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate with their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.